Research Interests:

The Digestive-Tract Symbiosis of Hirudo Verbana, the Medicinal Leech:

Leech Digestive Tract Symbiosis: While the digestive tract of most animals is colonized by a very complex microbial community, the digestive tract of the medicinal leech is colonized by an unusually simple microbioal community. Two bacteria dominate the microbiome of the leech: Aeromonas veronii biovar sobria and a bacterium that is related to Rikenella, a member of the Bacteroidetes. This simplicity helps us to investigate the interaction between the symbionts and the host and between the two symbionts.

Aeromonas evolution: Aeromonas veronii is an interesting bacterium on its own right, because it is also a causative agent of disease in humans and fish, while being a sybiont in leeches and zebrafish. Using whole genome information, we are addressing the following areas: regions of the genome that are specific for particular hosts, spread of antibiotic resistance genes and Aeromonas taxonomy.

Termite project: As part of a larger collaboration we are characterizing the termite microbiome. Lower termites harbor a complex commuity of protists, bacteria and archaea that are important in generating energy from wood. We are characterizing the termite microbiome using Illumina 16S rRNA gene sequencing.

Microbiomes: We are using an Illumina MiSeq to characterize microbial communities associated with diverse animals to improve our understanding of animal associated microbes.

For more information regarding leeches as a host, please follow this link.